Recently at church there was a big discussion about why Genesis 3:15 is a messianic prophecy. In simple layman’s terms (since I am a layman) I will try to explain this.
Genesis 3:15 NIV
From a simple reading, we see that God is declaring enmity between the snake (or Satan) and the woman, as well as Satan’s offspring and the woman’s offspring. We can understand the former enmity, as it was Satan who tempted Eve into eating the fruit.
The second part concerns the offspring of the two. Satan obviously is a spiritual being so would not have physical offspring, so this would mean the followers of Satan. The woman’s offspring is a “he” in this translation, but we find no record of her sons Cain and Abel crushing Satan’s. So this must have a larger implication than simply a direct offspring.
Flipping over to the New Testament, we find several references to Jesus “crushing” Satan.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Paul was writing to the early Christians, warning them to “watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.” He also said, “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” He is telling them to stay faithful to the gospel until the day when God crushes Satan in the last days. From the choice of words that Paul used, it can be seen that he used Genesis 3:15 as reference.
4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
Here, Paul uses the reference “born of a woman” to refer to Jesus. It can be seen that this nuance was taken from his reading of Genesis 3:15.
12 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Perhaps the best reference to Genesis 3:15 can be found in Revelation when John saw visions of the end times. There is a reference to “a woman clothed with the sun” who gave birth to a son who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” There is also a “red dragon” who was trying to “devour her child the moment he was born.” John, who would have been familiar with Genesis 3:15, saw this revelation and used words that were parallel to that of the old testament passage.
So from a simple reading of the NIV translation of Genesis 3:15, we gather:
- Got puts enmity between the woman and Satan
- Got puts enmity between Jesus and the followers of Satan
- Jesus will crush Satan’s head
Lastly, for those of you who need textual evidence of Genesis 3:15, here is my stab at it using Hebrew.
וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה
וּבֵין זַרְעֲ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ
הוּא יְשׁוּפְ רֹאשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב ס
I’m sure you can read all that. 🙂
The first line is literally, “I will put enmity between you and between the woman”. This part is pretty straight forward.
The second line is literally, “between your seed and her seed.” This is where it gets tricky. In Hebrew the word for “seed” (zera) is usually used in the context of multiple seeds. While the form used for Satan’s offspring is plural, the form used for the woman’s offspring is singular. Furthermore, the form of zera used for “her seed” is in the masculine form. This leads to the third line.
The third line is literally, “[pronoun] will overwhelm your head, and you will snap at the heel.” The big debate is what goes into [pronoun]. The Hebrew (hine) does not make the distinction between he, she, or it, so many theologians have debated over this. Catholics argue that this is “she” in order to point to Mary as the one who will bruise Satan’s head by giving birth to Jesus. However, this does not seem to align to the rest of the New Testament (especially Revelation) which repeatedly points to Jesus defeating Satan. Furthermore, looking at the Hebrew word zera, which is in masculine form, implies that the seed is a male. Thus, the [pronoun] makes sense to be “He” as it is translated in most English translations (including NIV).